- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 2, 2003

SEOUL, South Korea, Feb. 2 (UPI) — A special envoy of South Korea's president-elect Roh Moo-hyun left for the United States Sunday as part of efforts to push for a peaceful solution to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

The envoy, Chyung Dai-chul, Roh's close aide, will spend his three-day stay in Washington meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Roh's office said.

Chyung, a senior member of Roh's ruling Millennium Democratic Party, may meet President George W. Bush, probably Tuesday, and deliver a letter from Roh.

In Washington, the envoy will explain Roh's policies on North Korea and call for more U.S. efforts to peacefully resolve the nuclear standoff, which was sparked last October when the United States said Pyongyang had admitted to pursuing a highly enriched uranium program in violation of a 1994 accord.

In response, the United States suspended fuel aid to energy-starved North Korea. Pyongyang stepped further, expelling U.N. nuclear inspectors and removing seals from a mothballed reactor. Last month, the North pulled out of the treaty preventing the spread of nuclear arms.

"It's a very difficult situation, so Seoul and Washington should cope with it through close coordination," Chyung told journalists before leaving for Washington. "I plan to discuss ways to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear problems through dialogue and strengthen our alliance with the United States."

Following the Washington trip, Chyung will visit Tokyo to meet Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and other senior Japanese leaders.

Roh has said he would travel to Washington shortly after taking office on Feb. 25. "Roh's visit may take place in April, rather than March," a Roh aide told United Press International on condition of anonymity.

Roh, a former human right slawyer who was elected on a wave of anti-Americanism, is a strong advocate of reconciliation with communist North Korea and dialogue as a way of resolving the nuclear crisis.

The incoming leader has stressed the need for time to allow diplomacy to work to resolve the crisis. Roh believes that economic sanctions or military action could backfire and result in catastrophe on the divided Korean peninsula that technically remains in a state of war.

The United States wants to bring the nuclear issue before the U.N. Security Council which could impose sanctions. North Korea says it would consider sanctions a declaration of war.

The envoy's visit came amid signs that the nuclear standoff was deepening. U.S. officials said last week spy satellites have detected North Korea moving fuel rods around a key nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, When processed, enough plutonium could be extracted from the 8,000 rods to make four or five nuclear weapons, they said.

The United States is reportedly considering increasing the number of troops around the Korean peninsula to cope with any North Korean threat.

Seoul's Defense Ministry said Sunday it could not confirm the U.S. satellite intelligence and reports of possible troop reinforcement around the peninsula.

Amid mounting tensions, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il visited military units over the weekend. Kim, who rules the country in the capacity of the top military official, was "greatly satisfied to see all the servicemen trained as indomitable fighters capable of wiping out the aggressors by resolute and merciless blows," said the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency.

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